Showcase Sommerfest 2014 - page 26

A Night in Vienna
july 12
ur opening work does a wonderful job of putting
us all into Viennese mode.
Sirens of the Ball
is a
potpourri of waltzes drawn from the world’s
second most popular Viennese operetta,
Merry Widow
by Franz Lehár, premiered in 1905. (The
No. 1 spot is of course proudly held by Johann Strauss’
Die Fledermaus
, to which Sommerfest listeners will be
treated at this year’s closing event. Waltzes pervade
Merry Widow
, but the one set to the lovers’ duet “Lippen
schweigen” (Lips are silent) is in a class by itself.
he first Strauss we hear is the one who, more than
any other (and there were many others) has come to
symbolize all that is wonderful and fresh and joyous
and romantic about Vienna. From the catalogue
of nearly 130 polkas by Johann Strauss, Jr., the “Waltz
King,” we hear two. The polka, a lively folk dance in 2/4
meter, originated in Bohemia (not Poland!) around
1830. Its name is derived from the Czech word
meaning “little half,” a reference to the short half-steps
that characterize the dance.
Franz Lehár
April 30, 1870, Komárom, Hungary
October 24, 1948, Bad Ischl, Austria
Sirens of the Ball
Johann Strauss, Jr.
October 25, 1825, Vienna
June 3, 1899, Vienna
Polka (Polka for St. Anne’s), Opus 117
happy music
“In the dance hall the Viennese is an entirely different person.
His spirit, which before was already lethargic, goes into the
most formal sleep and trance, while his body newly revives,
and his every nerve trembles in 6/8 time.”
Observation of a writer in 19th-century Vienna
Ah, the glamour, the charm of Vienna!
Sparkling champagne, elegant ballrooms, glittering
chandeliers, infectious gaiety, romantic strolls through the city’s historic park, the Prater—these are the images
conjured up by Vienna of the late 19th century. The city’s craving for social dancing seems to have occupied a greater
percentage of most people’s time than anywhere else in the western world. One writer called dancing a “Viennese
obsession” and compared it to a hypnotic transformation. Another ranked dancing as second only to eating in the
Viennese catalogue of pleasure, noting that the waltz revealed the innermost essence of the Viennese character.
The voracious appetite of this dance-crazed city required thousands of waltzes, marches, polkas, quadrilles, galops
and other works. And into this shimmering world, reeling with romance and oozing nostalgia, stepped composers
like Lehár, von Suppé and especially the Strauss family: father Johann and his sons Johann, Jr., Eduard and Josef.
Tonight’s concert evokes that happy age with a selection of effervescent dances framing a concerto with its own
connection to Vienna and dance, a lovely work by that most romantic and poetic of Polish composers, Chopin.
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